FFAR Announces New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Awardees

WASHINGTON (August 12, 2020) – Today the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) announced the eight recipients of the 2019 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research, an award granted to early career scientists supporting research in one of the Foundation’s six Challenge Areas. The recipients will receive a total of $1,744,803 over three years, with matching funds from each recipients’ respective institutions to double FFAR’s investment for a total of $3,494,132.

The New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award provides early career scientists with funding to conduct audacious food and agriculture research. Investing in these scientists in the early years of their careers allows them to pursue innovative and transformational ideas uninhibited by the pressure of identifying their next grant.

“Preparing for the next frontier of agricultural innovation starts with investing in today’s scientific workforce,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Dr. Sally Rockey. “We are thrilled to support emerging superstars in food and agriculture research as they develop cutting-edge strategies to revolutionize food production, processing and distribution.”

The following individuals are the 2019 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award recipients:

Dr. Jared Ali, The Pennsylvania State University

Ali’s research is discovering mechanisms and chemical ecology-based management practices that control interactions linking cover crops, soil dynamics and beneficial organisms to increase crop resistance to pests and pathogens.

Dr. Jessica Cooperstone, The Ohio State University

Cooperstone’s research combines plant breeding/genetics, analytical chemistry, bioinformatics and nutrition to develop tomatoes that are more beneficial for human health.

Dr. Paul Dyce, Auburn University

Dyce’s research is improving the efficiency of cattle production by identifying molecular markers that indicate reproductive potential. The use of these markers can provide a better understanding of the underlying causes of unexplained infertility within the cow-calf sector leading to potential therapeutic options.

Dr. Andres Espindola Camacho, Oklahoma State University

Espindola Camacho's research uses cutting-edge, high-throughput sequencing to determine what affects plant health. Specially, Espindola Camacho is sequencing a plant’s microbiome, a collection of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live on a plant, to determine those organisms that positively or negatively impact the plant.

Dr. Landon Marston, Virginia Tech University

Marston’s research will create new knowledge and decision-making tools to help irrigators conserve scarce water resources while preserving their livelihood. These decision-support systems will aid farmers in formulating optimal multiyear cropping and water-allocation strategies under uncertain climatic and market conditions.

Dr. Nathan Mueller, Colorado State University

Mueller's research is investigating the reliance of irrigated crop production on snowmelt water resources globally. The project will heighten our understanding of snowmelt-dependent agriculture hotspots and how trends in water supplies and crop water demands influence water scarcity.

Dr. Neha Potnis, Auburn University

Traditional disease management strategies often fail to prevent recurring outbreaks. Potnis’s research is testing a two-pronged approach to transform disease management strategies and identify control approaches that are practical and profitable.

Dr. Susan Whitehead, Virginia Tech

Whitehead’s research is developing new ecologically based management practices for apples that can boost the content of health-promoting phytochemicals in fruit. If successful, these technologies could be applied to a variety of crops to improve the quality of food and boost the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables.


Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization originally established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today's food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population.

Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

This press release was edited on August 20, 2020 to include the final 2019 New Innovator awardee, Susan Whitehead.

Overcoming Water Scarcity

Overcoming Water Scarcity


Agriculture uses 70 percent of the world’s accessible freshwater. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Overcoming Water Scarcity Challenge Area addressed water use efficiency in agriculture by developing water conservation and reuse technologies, improving crop and livestock breeds, creating improved agronomic practices, increasing the social and economic tractability of conservation practices and enhancing the efficacy of Extension services.

FFAR’s Sustainable Water Management Challenge Area builds on earlier work to increase water availability and water efficiency for agricultural use, reduces agricultural water pollution and develops water reuse technologies.

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms


FFAR’s 2016-2018 Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Challenge Area increased soil health by building knowledge, fueling innovation, and enabling adoption of existing or new innovative practices that improve soil health.

The Soil Health Challenge Area advances existing research and identifies linkages between farm productivity and soil health, while also addressing barriers to the adoption of soil health practices.

Protein Challenge

Protein Challenge


FFAR’s 2016-2018 Protein Challenge Area sought to improve the environmental, economic and social sustainability of diverse proteins.

The Advance Animal Systems challenge area supports sustainable animal production through environmentally sound productions practices and advancement in animal health and welfare. Additionally, the Next Generation Crops Challenge Area develops non-traditional crops, including plant-based proteins, and creates new economic opportunities for conventional crops to increase future crop diversity and farm profitability.

Food Waste and Loss

Food Waste and Loss


About 40 percent of food in the US, or $161 billion each year, is lost or wasted. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Food and Waste Loss Challenge Area addressed the social, economic and environmental impacts from food waste and loss through research that developed of novel uses for agricultural waste, improved storage and distribution, supported tracking and monitoring, minimized spoilage through pre- and post-harvest innovations and changed behaviors to reduce food waste

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area addresses food waste and loss and supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.

Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability


Supporting innovation is necessary for sustainable results. Over the last 50 years, farmers have tripled global food production thanks to agricultural innovations. Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability was a 2016-2018 Challenge Area that focused on understanding the barriers and processes that prevented the adoption of technology and research results into sustainable practices.

Urban Food Systems

Urban Food Systems


The 2016-2018 Urban Food Systems Challenge Area addressed feeding urban populations through urban and peri-urban agriculture and augmenting the capabilities of our current food system.

The Urban Food Systems Challenge Area continues this work and enhances our ability to feed urban populations.

Making My Plate Your Plate


FFAR’s 2016-2018 Making My Plate Your Plate Challenge Area focused on helping Americans meet the USDA 2015 Dietary Guideline recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, including research to both produce and provide access to nutritious fruits and vegetables.

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.